The Pixie II
(A Ham Radio CW Transceiver kit)

Hi kids!  I'm going to attempt to walk with you through the assembly, testing and and transmission of my very first ever kit!
The reason that I'm going to the trouble of putting together this piece of work is not because I'm bored (if you know me you know I take forever to make changes to my web site, hehehe:) but because I've seen a need to fill in the gaps on some of the other web sites that go over building the kit.

When I first ordered the kit I saw the pictures of how simple the kit looked and how few parts were involved and figured that even *I* could build it!  I figured that it would only be a half hour to hour kit even for someone that had never built anything before.  Hah!

Well boys and girls, as kits go, it IS simple.  The problem lies in two areas though; 1.  I have no previous building experience and therefore limited electronic knowledge.  and 2.  I don't want to just shove the parts in the holes where the picture says to, I want to know WHY it goes there by looking at the schematic and the like!

Now the instructions in the kit you see below in the bag were put together fairly well.  You can look at the picture of the board and *mostly* figure things out.
Odds are though that you might screw something up though if you know nothing about electronics.
I would probably have been more frustrated trying to build the kit and spent a fair amount of time on the net researching things but fortunately I have just recently bought a used copy of the 1999 edition of  The ARRL Handbook.  Now just trust me on this one, if your going to be in the hobby of Ham Radio for a while, whether or not your building kits or just running store bought equipment, you NEED to get one of these books.  Don't think about it, just do it.  You will thank me later!  I bought mine used on www.powells.com for $15 dollars.  If you want a current issue you can get one for about US $35 or so.  It's worth twice that, it's 1200 pages long (or more) and it covers everything under the sun.  Even has some kits in there you can build!
 

I'm going to try and keep track of how much money I've spent (if I can find my receipts) on this project.  The only thing I had when I decided to do this was a soldering iron and some soldier so I needed a few things.   Above on the left is the kit as it came in the box.  I bought the kit from www.halted.com and also bought 4 crystals for 80 meters from them.   You only actually need one crystal for this project but I figure I will play with some other projects later and might even add a second frequency to this radio if I don't blow it up during assembly, hehehe:)    The crystals were less than a dollar each from them.  They didn't have the ones for 40 meters that I wanted so I will have to get those somewhere else later.  The kit included 3 or 4 pages worth of discussion and instructions and another smaller bag with the parts.

I also went to Tanners Electronics which is like an adults candy store (grin) and bought all of the necessary parts to build a SECOND kit as well. (more on this later)  Turns out that it's a good thing that I did.

On the right in the picture above you will see all of the 'accessories' that I had to buy to complete the kit.  It Does Not come with these parts.  You will need a headphone jack, morse key jack, either a jack for DC power supply or 9 volt battery wires (I went that way), a BNC jack for the antenna (or larger antenna jack if you want to put it in a big box, I'm putting mine in the Altoids tin, of course!)  and a small piece of coax to link the board to the BNC.

The instructions also come with an extra bonus circuit (parts not included) if you want a VXO RIT installed. (neat option) which will require another switch and a capacitor.  The instructions say 60 to 70pf capacitor but I'm thinking it was implied that it should be a variable capacitor?   Will have to go back to Tanners and see what they have that might mount on the side of the case. (my newness is showing through here!)

Above is the bag of goodies and the board.  The crystal you see does NOT come with the kit, you will have to order it separately!
The 386 IC (integrated circuit) was NOT on any protective foam.   ..but if it's of any consolation when I bought several extras at the electronics shop up the road they didn't come on any either. :/

I will try and 'clean up' the photo above so you have a better view of the back of the board before I started soldiering.  I should have taken a photo so that when your soldiering if you accidentally 'connect' two points and then you can't remember if they were connected you will have a 'quick' reference without having to refer back to the schematics and figure it out there!  ....ok, tried that and it looked really bad so I will just have to find a pic on someone else's web site and copy it for you later.

Above is the Voltmeter that I bought at Walmart for US $19.95 and it works great.  It is digital (obviously) and not an analog meter.  You can get by without one for this kit but its a great tool to have any ways.  This one does AC and DC voltage and current and a mess of other stuff.  If you shop around you can find them even cheaper.  The analog version at Walmart was only 10 bucks and at Tanner elec. they had small pocket sized digitals for 7 dollars!  Wow!

Sorry about the photo being kind of fuzzy, I wasn't holding very still.   Underneath the test leads you can see the wire cutters and needle nose pliers.  You will need cutters but can probably get by without the pliers. They are handy for shaping wire and such though (see later pics) .

Above is a shot of my work area.  Please note on the left hand back of the table the magnifying glass on the stand.  I'm not using the magnifier but the 'arms and hands' that this 'helper' has work GREAT for holding small boards and other things.  You can kind of see the small board it has in each hand!

I also have a cheap-o soldiering stand for the soldiering iron.  You don't really need one but it is nice to have a place to stick it when your working and the little sponge with some water in it on the base is good for cleaning the tip of the iron.   The stand is like 6 or 7 dollars US at Radio Shack.

No matter what you choose though just make SURE to put the iron in a SAFE place when your done working for the day until it cools off.  I usually lay mine in the Kitchen Sink.  I've used my soldiering iron for lots of other stuff and a GOOD habit to get into is to check AT LEAST twice after your done to make sure you unplugged the thing.   Getting into the habit of checking it twice can literally save your life.  All it takes is forgetting once and the thing getting knocked onto the floor and catching the carpet and house on fire!

Above is a cheap-o Magnifier Head Set made entirely out of plastic, lenses and all, that I bought for US $6.95.  Unless you have Superman Sight (and I'm not kidding either, I'm only 34 and have 20/20 vision) you will at LEAST need a magnifying glass to read the type, numbers or see the color codes on these parts!!  Don't even BOTHER to open the plastic bag until you have something to magnify with.  If you have the patience go shopping or get on the net and find a cheap set of these if you plan on building other things in the future.  Otherwise just try and find a magnifying glass.   The type on the diode and on the flat capacitors are TINY.

The color rings on the resistors and encapsulated inductors sometimes are not what you think.  Sometimes the orange or brown looks red and visa/versa.  Triple check your parts when you start.  Do a parts inventory and lay everything out on 2 sheets of notebook paper.  When you've looked at everything twice and are SURE you have all of the right parts (they don't always get the parts right and they don't always send all of the parts) then write down next to the part what it is and TAPE it down with some clear tape!

These parts are small and easily lost.  These parts can easily get mixed up!   Ouch! :)

Closer shot of some of the 'extra' parts you will need.

Some of the items in the package you can put on the board in any direction and the part will work fine.  Other parts, the instructions will tell you, can ONLY be put on the board in a certain direction.

Now while the instructions give you a GREAT description of the parts, listing the color code for each resistor, numbers for other parts, etc., and the schematic lists the direction of the part, they DON'T BOTHER  putting a PICTURE of the part next to the PICTURE of the schematic part so you know what the heck your looking at!          Example:  (The above picture is from the ARRL Handbook)  E. is the Diode that came in my package.  D. is what is on the schematic diagram.  If I didn't have the Handbook to refer to I WOULD NOT KNOW which direction to face the diode because I don't know sQuaT about electronics and therefore wouldn't know which side of the diode is which!    But now you know and have a handy picture to refer back to!

The above pictures are two inductors.  These are typically called encapsulated inductors since the wire windings are inside.
These two inductors are the WRONG inductors though, they sent me the wrong stuff!  Argh!  Good thing I had bought extra parts at tanners!  I will have to call them and have them ship the correct ones!

The two chips above are NPN Transistors.  The circuit calls for 2N2222 NPN Transistors or equivalent.  As you can see the two they sent me are NOT 2N2222's.  At this point I have No Idea if they are equivalent or not.  They list these and the 2222's and many others with specs in The ARRL Handbook but since I don't know what the tolerances are for the radio I don't know if these will work.   I will have to ask them when I email them about the other parts that they sent that were wrong.

Ok, get a cup of coffee and lets get started!
Click here to go to page 2!